Planning Your Next Running Route? 8 Factors to Consider

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At some stage, your current running route may stop feeling rewarding. Perhaps you’re ready to face a more challenging distance. Maybe you’d like to mix up the terrain. Or maybe you just want a change of scenery. If any of these feelings sound familiar, the time has come to plan a new running route.

Plan Your Running Route

Different routes will benefit you in different ways. Some will be easier to fit around your other commitments. Others may be more scenic. Meanwhile, others will push your training up a gear. Whether you seek convenience, enjoyment or improvement – consider the following eight factors to get the most out of your running route:

1. Surroundings

If you’re planning a running route, you’ve already chosen not to use a treadmill. Beyond the gym, the world is yours to explore. So, what would you like to see as you run? Do you want to unplug amongst nature, or do you seek the buzz of an urban setting? Choose surroundings that inspire you to get out there.

2. Format

When constructing your route, you have various formats to choose from. You could run several laps of a shorter route to achieve the distance you desire. You could plot a single circuit that starts and ends at the same point. Or you could embark on an out-and-back route, whereby you run to a specific landmark and return along the same route.

The same distance in each of these formats could feel entirely different. Some find laps monotonous, whilst others like how the consistency helps their pacing. Meanwhile, some believe out-and-back routes force them to dig deeper as they still have halfway to go when they reach the furthest point from the start. Think about what format appeals to you.

3. Terrain

Although we’ve mentioned surroundings from a scenic perspective, what happens under foot is also important. What terrain do you want to run on: road, cross-country, trail? Road can make for a faster run. Meanwhile, cross-country and trail provide more variety and work different muscles as you negotiate uneven surfaces. Again, consider the balance between what you enjoy and what will help you progress.

4. Profile

Not every mile feels the same. How flat they are makes a big difference. When planning your route, consider its profile. Does it have many ups and downs? A hilly route will require more effort, which could lower your enjoyment. However, hills do increase the intensity of your training, which could fast-track your progress. So, weigh-up what means most to you and choose your route accordingly.

5. Future Events

Are you training for an event? Plan routes that will give you a taste of what to expect on the day. If you’ve entered a trail race, yet all your training sessions take place on flat city streets, the course may come as a shock. Prepare yourself by replicating the conditions of your event during training. Choose routes with a similar profile and terrain.

6. Convenience

You may be squeezing your runs around work and family commitments. If this is the case, getting out the door may be a big enough challenge. When time is short, convenience is the biggest priority. A route local to home will be far easier to manage than one you have to travel to. You could also incorporate runs into your everyday life. Perhaps you could kill two birds with one stone by running between home and work instead of your usual commute?

7. Safety

Connecting points A and B on a map is one thing. But running the same route can be a different story. Consider any potential hazards you may encounter. For instance, do any roads on your route have pavements? Will any parks remain lit at the time you plan to run? If an emergency arose, could you contact somebody for help? You may have to take extra care running some routes in the winter.

8. Exit Strategy

At some stage, you may have to cut a run short and head home. Perhaps an old injury will flare up, a domestic matter will arise, or you’ll simply run out of steam. Though on some occasions you can push-on through a hard run, other times you’ll be forced to turn back. Whatever the reason, you’ll make a swifter exit if you already have a contingency plan. When planning your route, be mindful of any shortcuts that could lead you home sooner. Also, consider any transport links along your route. Alternatively, does the route pass the home of a friend or family member who could assist you in an emergency?

Together, these factors will help you plan a running route that aligns with your lifestyle, motivations and training goals.

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